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Chapter 23

MR. CHAFFERY AT HOME.


The golden mists of delight lifted a little on Monday, when Mr. and
Mrs. G.E. Lewisham went to call on his mother-in-law and
Mr. Chaffery. Mrs. Lewisham went in evident apprehension, but clouds
of glory still hung about Lewisham's head, and his manner was heroic.
He wore a cotton shirt and linen collar, and a very nice black satin
tie that Mrs. Lewisham had bought on her own responsibility during the
day. She naturally wanted him to look all right.

Mrs. Chaffery appeared in the half light of the passage as the top of
a grimy cap over Ethel's shoulder and two black sleeves about her
neck. She emerged as a small, middle-aged woman, with a thin little
nose between silver-rimmed spectacles, a weak mouth and perplexed
eyes, a queer little dust-lined woman with the oddest resemblance to
Ethel in her face. She was trembling visibly with nervous agitation.

She hesitated, peering, and then kissed Mr. Lewisham effusively. "And
this is Mr. Lewisham!" she said as she did so.

She was the third thing feminine to kiss Lewisham since the
promiscuous days of his babyhood. "I was so afraid--There!" She
laughed hysterically.

"You'll excuse my saying that it's comforting to see you--honest like
and young. Not but what Ethel ... _He_ has been something dreadful,"
said Mrs. Chaffery. "You didn't ought to have written about that
mesmerising. And of all letters that which Jane wrote--there! But
he's waiting and listening--"

"Are we to go downstairs, Mums?" asked Ethel.

"He's waiting for you there," said Mrs. Chaffery. She held a dismal
little oil lamp, and they descended a tenebrous spiral structure into
an underground breakfast-room lit by gas that shone through a
partially frosted globe with cut-glass stars. That descent had a
distinctly depressing effect upon Lewisham. He went first. He took a
deep breath at the door. What on earth was Chaffery going to say? Not
that he cared, of course.

Chaffery was standing with his back to the fire, trimming his
finger-nails with a pocket-knife. His gilt glasses were tilted forward
so as to make an inflamed knob at the top of his long nose, and he
regarded Mr. and Mrs. Lewisham over them with--Lewisham doubted his
eyes for a moment--but it was positively a smile, an essentially
waggish smile.

"You've come back," he said quite cheerfully over Lewisham to
Ethel. There was a hint of falsetto in his voice.

"She has called to see her mother," said Lewisham. "You, I believe,
are Mr. Chaffery?"

"I would like to know who the Deuce _you_ are?" said Chaffery,
suddenly tilting his head back so as to look through his glasses
instead of over them, and laughing genially. "For thoroughgoing Cheek,
I'm inclined to think you take the Cake. Are you the Mr. Lewisham to
whom this misguided girl refers in her letter?"

"I am."

"Maggie," said Mr. Chaffery to Mrs. Chaffery, "there is a class of
being upon whom delicacy is lost--to whom delicacy is practically
unknown. Has your daughter got her marriage lines?"

"Mr. Chaffery!" said Lewisham, and Mrs. Chaffery exclaimed, "James!
How _can_ you?"

Chaffery shut his penknife with a click and slipped it into his
vest-pocket. Then he looked up again, speaking in the same equal
voice. "I presume we are civilised persons prepared to manage our
affairs in a civilised way. My stepdaughter vanishes for two nights
and returns with an alleged husband. I at least am not disposed to be
careless about her legal position."

"You ought to know her better--" began Lewisham.

"Why argue about it," said Chaffery gaily, pointing a lean finger at
Ethel's gesture, "when she has 'em in her pocket? She may just as well
show me now. I thought so. Don't be alarmed at my handling them.
Fresh copies can always be got at the nominal price of two-and-seven.
Thank you ... Lewisham, George Edgar. One-and-twenty. And ...
You--one-and-twenty! I never did know your age, my dear, exactly, and
now your mother won't say. Student! Thank you. I am greatly
obliged. Indeed I am greatly relieved. And now, what have you got to
say for yourselves in this remarkable affair?"

"You had a letter," said Lewisham.

"I had a letter of excuses--the personalities I overlook ... Yes,
sir--they were excuses. You young people wanted to marry--and you
seized an occasion. You did not even refer to the fact that you
wanted to marry in your letter. Pure modesty! But now you have come
here married. It disorganises this household, it inflicts endless
bother on people, but never you mind that! I'm not blaming
_you_. Nature's to blame! Neither of you know what you are in for
yet. You will. You're married, and that is the great essential
thing.... (Ethel, my dear, just put your husband's hat and stick
behind the door.) And you, sir, are so good as to disapprove of the
way in which I earn my living?"

"Well," said Lewisham. "Yes--I'm bound to say I do."

"You are really _not_ bound to say it. The modesty of inexperience
would excuse you."

"Yes, but it isn't right--it isn't straight."

"Dogma," said Chaffery. "Dogma!"

"What do you mean by dogma?" asked Lewisham.

"I mean, dogma. But we must argue this out in comfort. It is our
supper hour, and I'm not the man to fight against accomplished
facts. We have intermarried. There it is. You must stop to
supper--and you and I must thresh these things out. We've involved
ourselves with each other and we've got to make the best of it. Your
wife and mine will spread the board, and we will go on talking. Why
not sit in that chair instead of leaning on the back? This is a
home--_domus_--not a debating society--humble in spite of my manifest
frauds.... That's better. And in the first place I hope--I do so
hope"--Chaffery was suddenly very impressive--"that you're not a
Dissenter."

"Eh!" said Lewisham, and then, "No! I am _not_ a Dissenter."

"That's better," said Mr. Chaffery. "I'm glad of that. I was just a
little afraid--Something in your manner. I can't stand Dissenters.
I've a peculiar dislike to Dissenters. To my mind it's the great
drawback of this Clapham. You see ... I have invariably found them
deceitful--invariably."

He grimaced and dropped his glasses with a click against his waistcoat
buttons. "I'm very glad of that," he said, replacing them. "The
Dissenter, the Nonconformist Conscience, the Puritan, you know, the
Vegetarian and Total Abstainer, and all that sort of thing, I cannot
away with them. I have cleared my mind of cant and formulae. I've a
nature essentially Hellenic. Have you ever read Matthew Arnold?"

"Beyond my scientific reading--"

"Ah! you _should_ read Matthew Arnold--a mind of singular clarity. In
him you would find a certain quality that is sometimes a little
wanting in your scientific men. They are apt to be a little too
phenomenal, you know, a little too objective. Now I seek after
noumena. Noumena, Mr. Lewisham! If you follow me--?"

He paused, and his eyes behind the glasses were mildly
interrogative. Ethel re-entered without her hat and jacket, and with a
noisy square black tray, a white cloth, some plates and knives and
glasses, and began to lay the table.

"_I_ follow you," said Lewisham, reddening. He had not the courage to
admit ignorance of this remarkable word. "You state your case."

"I seek after _noumena_," repeated Chaffery with great satisfaction,
and gesticulated with his hand, waving away everything but that. "I
cannot do with surfaces and appearances. I am one of those
nympholepts, you know, nympholepts ... Must pursue the truth of
things! the elusive fundamental ... I make a rule, I never tell myself
lies--never. There are few who can say that. To my mind--truth begins
at home. And for the most part--stops there. Safest and seemliest!
_you_ know. With most men--with your typical Dissenter _par
excellence_--it's always gadding abroad, calling on the neighbours.
You see my point of view?"

He glanced at Lewisham, who was conscious of an unwonted opacity of
mind. He became wary, as wary as he could manage to be on the spur of
the moment.

"It's a little surprising, you know," he said very carefully, "if I
may say so--and considering what happened--to hear _you_ ..."

"Speaking of truth? Not when you understand my position. Not when you
see where I stand. That is what I am getting at. That is what I am
naturally anxious to make clear to you now that we have intermarried,
now that you are my stepson-in-law. You're young, you know, you're
young, and you're hard and fast. Only years can give a mind
_tone_--mitigate the varnish of education. I gather from this
letter--and your face--that you are one of the party that participated
in that little affair at Lagune's."

He stuck out a finger at a point he had just seen. "By-the-bye!--That
accounts for Ethel," he said.

Ethel rapped down the mustard on the table. "It does," she said, but
not very loudly.

"But you had met before?" said Chaffery.

"At Whortley," said Lewisham.

"I see," said Chaffery.

"I was in--I was one of those who arranged the exposure," said
Lewisham. "And now you have raised the matter, I am bound to say--"

"I knew," interrupted Chaffery. "But what a shock that was for
Lagune!" He looked down at his toes for a moment with the corners of
his mouth tucked in. "The hand dodge wasn't bad, you know," he said,
with a queer sidelong smile.

Lewisham was very busy for a moment trying to get this remark in
focus. "I don't see it in the same light as you do," he explained at
last.

"Can't get away from your moral bias, eh?--Well, well. We'll go into
all that. But apart from its moral merits--simply as an artistic
trick--it was not bad."

"I don't know much about tricks--"

"So few who undertake exposures do. You admit you never heard or
thought of that before--the bladder, I mean. Yet it's as obvious as
tintacks that a medium who's hampered at his hands will do all he can
with his teeth, and what _could_ be so self-evident as a bladder under
one's lappel? What could be? Yet I know psychic literature pretty
well, and it's never been suggested even! Never. It's a perpetual
surprise to me how many things are _not_ thought of by investigators.
For one thing, they never count the odds against them, and that puts
them wrong at the start. Look at it! I am by nature tricky. I spend
all my leisure standing or sitting about and thinking up or practising
new little tricks, because it amuses me immensely to do so. The whole
thing amuses me. Well--what is the result of these meditations? Take
one thing:--I know eight-and-forty ways of making raps--of which at
least ten are original. Ten original ways of making raps." His manner
was very impressive. "And some of them simply tremendous raps. There!"

A confirmatory rap exploded--as it seemed between Lewisham and
Chaffery.

"_Eh?_" said Chaffery.

The mantelpiece opened a dropping fire, and the table went off under
Lewisham's nose like a cracker.

"You see?" said Chaffery, putting his hands under the tail of his
coat. The whole room seemed snapping its fingers at Lewisham for a
space.

"Very well, and now take the other side. Take the severest test I ever
tried. Two respectable professors of physics--not Newtons, you
understand, but good, worthy, self-important professors of physics--a
lady anxious to prove there's a life beyond the grave, a journalist
who wants stuff to write--a person, that is, who gets his living by
these researches just as I do--undertook to test me. Test _me_!... Of
course they had their other work to do, professing physics, professing
religion, organising research, and so forth. At the outside they don't
think an hour a day about it, and most of them had never cheated
anybody in their existence, and couldn't, for example, travel without
a ticket for a three-mile journey and not get caught, to save their
lives.... Well--you see the odds?"

He paused. Lewisham appeared involved in some interior struggle.

"You know," explained Chaffery, "it was quite an accident you got
me--quite. The thing slipped out of my mouth. Or your friend with, the
flat voice wouldn't have had a chance. Not a chance."

Lewisham spoke like a man who is lifting a weight. "All _this_, you
know, is off the question. I'm not disputing your ability. But the
thing is ... it isn't right."

"We're coming to that," said Chaffery.

"It's evident we look at things in a different light."

"That's it. That's just what we've got to discuss. Exactly!"

"Cheating is cheating. You can't get away from that. That's simple
enough."

"Wait till I've done with it," said Chaffery with a certain zest. "Of
course it's imperative you should understand my position. It isn't as
though I hadn't one. Ever since I read your letter I've been thinking
over that. Really!--a justification! In a way you might almost say I
had a mission. A sort of prophet. You really don't see the beginning
of it yet."

"Oh, but hang it!" protested Lewisham.

"Ah! you're young, you're crude. My dear young man, you're only at the
beginning of things. You really must concede a certain possibility of
wider views to a man more than twice your age. But here's supper. For
a little while at any rate we'll call a truce."

Ethel had come in again bearing an additional chair, and Mrs. Chaffery
appeared behind her, crowning the preparations with a jug of small
beer. The cloth, Lewisham observed, as he turned towards it, had
several undarned holes and discoloured places, and in the centre stood
a tarnished cruet which contained mustard, pepper, vinegar, and three
ambiguous dried-up bottles. The bread was on an ample board with a
pious rim, and an honest wedge of cheese loomed disproportionate on a
little plate. Mr. and Mrs. Lewisham were seated facing one another,
and Mrs. Chaffery sat in the broken chair because she understood its
ways.

"This cheese is as nutritious and unattractive and indigestible as
Science," remarked Chaffery, cutting and passing wedges. "But crush
it--so--under your fork, add a little of this good Dorset butter, a
dab of mustard, pepper--the pepper is very necessary--and some malt
vinegar, and crush together. You get a compound called Crab and by no
means disagreeable. So the wise deal with the facts of life, neither
bolting nor rejecting, but adapting."

"As though pepper and mustard were not facts," said Lewisham, scoring
his solitary point that evening.

Chaffery admitted the collapse of his image in very complimentary
terms, and Lewisham could not avoid a glance across the table at
Ethel. He remembered that Chaffery was a slippery scoundrel whose
blame was better than his praise, immediately afterwards.

For a time the Crab engaged Chaffery, and the conversation
languished. Mrs. Chaffery asked Ethel formal questions about their
lodgings, and Ethel's answers were buoyant, "You must come and have
tea one day," said Ethel, not waiting for Lewisham's endorsement, "and
see it all."

Chaffery astonished Lewisham by suddenly displaying a complete
acquaintance with his status as a South Kensington teacher in
training. "I suppose you have some money beyond that guinea," said
Chaffery offhandedly.

"Enough to go on with," said Lewisham, reddening.

"And you look to them at South Kensington, to do something for you--a
hundred a year or so, when your scholarship is up?"

"Yes," said Lewisham a little reluctantly. "Yes. A hundred a year or
so. That's the sort of idea. And there's lots of places beyond South
Kensington, of course, even if they don't put me up there."

"I see," said Chaffery; "but it will be a pretty close shave for all
that--one hundred a year. Well, well--there's many a deserving man has
to do with less," and after a meditative pause he asked Lewisham to
pass the beer.

"Hev you a mother living, Mr. Lewisham?" said Mrs. Chaffery suddenly,
and pursued him through the tale of his connexions. When he came to
the plumber, Mrs. Chaffery remarked with an unexpected air of
consequence that most families have their poor relations. Then the
air of consequence vanished again into the past from which it had
arisen.

Supper finished, Chaffery poured the residuum of the beer into his
glass, produced a Broseley clay of the longest sort, and invited
Lewisham to smoke. "Honest smoking," said Chaffery, tapping the bowl
of his clay, and added: "In this country--cigars--sound cigars--and
honesty rarely meet."

Lewisham fumbled in his pocket for his Algerian cigarettes, and
Chaffery having regarded them unfavourably through his glasses, took
up the thread of his promised apologia. The ladies retired to wash up
the supper things.

"You see," said Chaffery, opening abruptly so soon as the clay was
drawing, about this cheating--I do not find life such a simple matter
as you do."

"_I_ don't find life simple," said Lewisham, "but I do think there's a
Right and a Wrong in things. And I don't think you have said anything
so far to show that spiritualistic cheating is Right."

"Let us thresh the matter out," said Chaffery, crossing his legs; "let
us thresh the matter out. Now"--he drew at his pipe--"I don't think
you fully appreciate the importance of Illusion in life, the Essential
Nature of Lies and Deception of the body politic. You are inclined to
discredit one particular form of Imposture, because it is not
generally admitted--carries a certain discredit, and--witness the heel
edges of my trouser legs, witness yonder viands--small rewards."

"It's not that," said Lewisham.

"Now I am prepared to maintain," said Chaffery, proceeding with his
proposition, "that Honesty is essentially an anarchistic and
disintegrating force in society, that communities are held together
and the progress of civilisation made possible only by vigorous and
sometimes even, violent Lying; that the Social Contract is nothing
more or less than a vast conspiracy of human beings to lie to and
humbug themselves and one another for the general Good. Lies are the
mortar that bind the savage Individual man into the social
masonry. There is the general thesis upon which I base my
justification. My mediumship, I can assure you, is a particular
instance of the general assertion. Were I not of a profoundly
indolent, restless, adventurous nature, and horribly averse to
writing, I would make a great book of this and live honoured by every
profound duffer in the world."

"But how are _you_ going to prove it?"

"Prove It! It simply needs pointing out. Even now there are
men--Bernard Shaw, Ibsen, and such like--who have seen bits of it in a
new-gospel-grubbing sort of fashion. What Is man? Lust and greed
tempered by fear and an irrational vanity."

"I don't agree with that," said Mr. Lewisham.

"You will as you grow older," said Chaffery. "There's truths you have
to grow into. But about this matter of Lies--let us look at the fabric
of society, let us compare the savage. You will discover the only
essential difference between savage and civilised is this: The former
hasn't learnt to shirk the truth of things, and the latter has. Take
the most obvious difference--the clothing of the civilised man, his
invention of decency. What _is_ clothing? The concealment of essential
facts. What is decorum? Suppression! I don't argue against decency and
decorum, mind you, but there they are--essentials to civilisation and
essentially '_suppressio veri_.' And in the pockets of his clothes our
citizen carries money. The pure savage has no money. To him a lump of
metal is a lump of metal--possibly ornamental--no more. That's
right. To any lucid-minded man it's the same or different only through
the gross folly of his fellows. But to the common civilised man the
universal exchangeability of this gold is a sacred and fundamental
fact. Think of it! Why should it be? There isn't a why! I live in
perpetual amazement at the gullibility of my fellow-creatures. Of a
morning sometimes, I can assure you, I lie in bed fancying that people
may have found out this swindle in the night, expect to hear a tumult
downstairs and see your mother-in-law come rushing into the room with
a rejected shilling from the milkman. 'What's this?' says he. 'This
Muck for milk?' But it never happens. Never. If it did, if people
suddenly cleared their minds of this cant of money, what would happen?
The true nature of man would appear. I should whip out of bed, seize
some weapon, and after the milkman forthwith. It's becoming to keep
the peace, but it's necessary to have milk. The neighbours would come
pouring out--also after milk. Milkman, suddenly enlightened, would
start clattering up the street. After him! Clutch--tear! Got him!
Over goes the cart! Fight if you like, but don't upset the
can!... Don't you see it all?--perfectly reasonable every bit of it. I
should return, bruised and bloody, with the milk-can under my arm.
Yes, _I_ should have the milk-can--I should keep my eye on
that.... But why go on? You of all men should know that life is a
struggle for existence, a fight for food. Money is just the lie that
mitigates our fury."

"No," said Lewisham; "no! I'm not prepared to admit that."

"What _is_ money?"

Mr. Lewisham dodged. "You state your case first," he said. "I really
don't see what all this has to do with cheating at a _sťance_."

"I weave my defence from this loom, though. Take some aggressively
respectable sort of man--a bishop, for example."

"Well," said Lewisham, "I don't much hold with bishops."

"It doesn't matter. Take a professor of science, walking the
earth. Remark his clothing, making a decent citizen out of him,
concealing the fact that physically he is a flabby, pot-bellied
degenerate. That is the first Lie of his being. No fringes round _his_
trousers, my boy. Notice his hair, groomed and clipped, the tacit lie
that its average length is half an inch, whereas in nature he would
wave a few score yard-long hairs of ginger grey to the winds of
heaven. Notice the smug suppressions of his face. In his mouth are
Lies in the shape of false teeth. Then on the earth somewhere poor
devils are toiling to get him meat and corn and wine. He is clothed in
the lives of bent and thwarted weavers, his Way is lit by phossy jaw,
he eats from lead-glazed crockery--all his ways are paved with the
lives of men.... Think of the chubby, comfortable creature! And, as
Swift has it--to think that such a thing should deal in pride!... He
pretends that his blessed little researches are in some way a fair
return to these remote beings for their toil, their suffering;
pretends that he and his parasitic career are payment for their
thwarted desires. Imagine him bullying his gardener over some
transplanted geraniums, the thick mist of lies they stand in, so that
the man does not immediately with the edge of a spade smite down his
impertinence to the dust from which it rose.... And his case is the
case of all comfortable lives. What a lie and sham all civility is,
all good breeding, all culture and refinement, while one poor ragged
wretch drags hungry on the earth!"

"But this is Socialism!" said Lewisham. "_I_--"

"No Ism," said Chaffery, raising his rich voice. "Only the ghastly
truth of things--the truth that the warp and the woof of the world of
men is Lying. Socialism is no remedy, no _ism_ is a remedy; things
are so."

"I don't agree--" began Lewisham.

"Not with the hopelessness, because you are young, but with the
description you do."

"Well--within limits."

"You agree that most respectable positions in the world are tainted
with the fraud of our social conditions. If they were not tainted
with fraud they would not be respectable. Even your own position--Who
gave you the right to marry and prosecute interesting scientific
studies while other young men rot in mines?"

"I admit--"

"You can't help admitting. And here is my position. Since all ways of
life are tainted with fraud, since to live and speak the truth is
beyond human strength and courage--as one finds it--is it not better
for a man that he engage in some straightforward comparatively harmless
cheating, than if he risk his mental integrity in some ambiguous
position and fall at last into self-deception and self-righteousness?
That is the essential danger. That is the thing I always guard
against. Heed that! It is the master sin. Self-righteousness."

Mr. Lewisham pulled at his moustache.

"You begin to take me. And after all, these worthy people do not
suffer so greatly. If I did not take their money some other impostor
would. Their huge conceit of intelligence would breed perhaps some
viler swindle than my facetious rappings. That's the line our doubting
bishops take, and why shouldn't I? For example, these people might
give it to Public Charities, minister to the fattened secretary, the
prodigal younger son. After all, at worst, I am a sort of latter-day
Robin Hood; I take from the rich according to their incomes. I don't
give to the poor certainly, I don't get enough. But--there are other
good works. Many a poor weakling have I comforted with Lies, great
thumping, silly Lies, about the grave! Compare me with one of those
rascals who disseminate phossy jaw and lead poisons, compare me with a
millionaire who runs a music hall with an eye to feminine talent, or
an underwriter, or the common stockbroker. Or any sort of lawyer....

"There are bishops," said Chaffery, "who believe in Darwin and doubt
Moses. Now, I hold myself better than they--analogous perhaps, but
better--for I do at least invent something of the tricks I play--I do
do that."

"That's all very well," began Lewisham.

"I might forgive them their dishonesty," said Chaffery, "but the
stupidity of it, the mental self-abnegation--Lord! If a solicitor
doesn't swindle in the proper shabby-magnificent way, they chuck him
for unprofessional conduct." He paused. He became meditative, and
smiled faintly.

"Now, some of _my_ dodges," he said with a sudden change of voice,
turning towards Lewisham, his eyes smiling over his glasses and an
emphatic hand patting the table-cloth; "some of _my_ dodges are
_damned_ ingenious, you know--_damned_ ingenious--and well worth
double the money they bring me--double."

He turned towards the fire again, pulling at his smouldering pipe, and
eyeing Lewisham over the corner of his glasses.

"One or two of my little things would make Maskelyne sit up," he said
presently. "They would set that mechanical orchestra playing out of
pure astonishment. I really must explain some of them to you--now we
have intermarried."

It took Mr. Lewisham a minute or so to re-form the regiment of his
mind, disordered by its headlong pursuit of Chaffery's flying
arguments. "But on your principles you might do almost anything!" he
said.

"Precisely!" said Chaffery.

"But--"

"It is rather a curious method," protested Chaffery; "to test one's
principles of action by judging the resultant actions on some other
principle, isn't it?"

Lewisham took a moment to think. "I suppose that is so," he said, in
the manner of a man convinced against his will.

He perceived his logic insufficient. He suddenly thrust the delicacies
of argument aside. Certain sentences he had brought ready for use in
his mind came up and he delivered them abruptly. "Anyhow," he said, "I
don't agree with this cheating. In spite of what you say, I hold to
what I said in my letter. Ethel's connexion with all these things is
at an end. I shan't go out of my way to expose you, of course, but if
it comes in my way I shall speak my mind of all these spiritualistic
phenomena. It's just as well that we should know clearly where we
are."

"That is clearly understood, my dear stepson-in-law," said
Chaffery. "Our present object is discussion."

"But Ethel--"

"Ethel is yours," said Chaffery. "Ethel is yours," he repeated after
an interval and added pensively--"to keep."

"But talking of Illusion," he resumed, dismissing the sordid with a
sign of relief, "I sometimes think with Bishop Berkeley, that all
experience is probably something quite different from reality. That
consciousness is _essentially_ hallucination. I, here, and you, and
our talk--it is all Illusion. Bring your Science to bear--what am I? A
cloudy multitude of atoms, an infinite interplay of little cells. Is
this hand that I hold out me? This head? Is the surface of my skin any
more than a rude average boundary? You say it is my mind that is me?
But consider the war of motives. Suppose I have an impulse that I
resist--it is _I_ resist it--the impulse is outside me, eh? But
suppose that impulse carries me and I do the thing--that impulse is
part of me, is it not? Ah! My brain reels at these mysteries! Lord!
what flimsy fluctuating things we are--first this, then that, a
thought, an impulse, a deed and a forgetting, and all the time madly
cocksure we are ourselves. And as for you--you who have hardly learned
to think for more than five or six short years, there you sit,
assured, coherent, there you sit in all your inherited original
sin--Hallucinatory Windlestraw!--judging and condemning. _You_ know
Right from Wrong! My boy, so did Adam and Eve ... _so soon as they'd
had dealings with the father of lies_!"

* * * * *

At the end of the evening whisky and hot water were produced, and
Chaffery, now in a mood of great urbanity, said he had rarely enjoyed
anyone's conversation so much as Lewisham's, and insisted upon
everyone having whisky. Mrs. Chaffery and Ethel added sugar and
lemon. Lewisham felt an instantaneous mild surprise at the sight of
Ethel drinking grog.

At the door Mrs. Chaffery kissed Lewisham an effusive good-bye, and
told Ethel she really believed it was all for the best.

On the way home Lewisham was thoughtful and preoccupied. The problem
of Chaffery assumed enormous proportions. At times indeed even that
good man's own philosophical sketch of himself as a practical exponent
of mental sincerity touched with humour and the artistic spirit,
seemed plausible. Lagune was an undeniable ass, and conceivably
psychic research was an incentive to trickery. Then he remembered the
matter in his relation to Ethel....

"Your stepfather is a little hard to follow," he said at last, sitting
on the bed and taking off one boot. "He's dodgy--he's so confoundedly
dodgy. One doesn't know where to take hold of him. He's got such a
break he's clean bowled me again and again."

He thought for a space, and then removed his boot and sat with it on
his knee. "Of course!... all that he said was wrong--quite
wrong. Right is right and cheating is cheating, whatever you say about
it."

"That's what I feel about him," said Ethel at the looking-glass.
"That's exactly how it seems to me."

H.G. Wells